Is Social Media Harmful?

Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM) have published a report about social media based on a survey of around 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds.  Of the five most popular social networks, according to ratings provided by young people, Instagram was shown as the most damaging social network to young people's mental wellbeing, and causes feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.  Among the top five only YouTube was found to have a positive impact.

Here is how they stack up in order of most harmful to least:

  1. Instagram
  2. Snapchat
  3. Facebook
  4. Twitter
  5. YouTube

The survey asked young people to score each of the social media platforms the used based on 14 health and wellbeing-related issues, which were identified by experts as the most significant.

According to the research, young people say 4 of the 5 most-used platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram — make their feelings of anxiety worse. The report says one in six young people will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, with rates of anxiety and depression increasing by 70 percent over the past 25 years.

The report notes that the visual nature of Instagram and Snapchat is the reason behind the ranking.

"It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people," Shirley Cramer CBE — chief executive of RSPH — said in a statement.

"Because platforms like Instagram and Facebook present highly curated versions of the people we know and the world around us, it is easy for our perspective of reality to become distorted," says Green.

If you think people in your life are being adversely affected by social media and cyber bullying contact us for help.